(In this guest post, long-time NCS supporter and student of dark and dirty metal SurgicalBrute provides his personal list of 2013′s best releases.)
This will be my fourth time writing an End of the Year list for No Clean Singing and the one thing Ive learned is that it gets no easier. Way too many bands are releasing really amazing albums, and the more you dig the more you’re going to find. There just isn’t enough room to cover every band that deserves to be mentioned this year. Even now, I’ve got bands I plan to listen to that could easily reshuffle this whole list.
…Yeah, I know… first world problems right here.
Anyway, it took a little work, but I did manage to thin a pretty massive list down to 20 bands that I feel stood out from the rest. I’ve also included a few runner-ups that are more than worthy of being on here, so I’d encourage you to check those bands out too. (Seriously… the only reason this isn’t a top 30 list is because I’m too damn lazy.)
So, in no particular order, here’s the list I know everyone’s been waiting to read… enjoy… \m/
Bölzer – Aura (EP)
This year, Swiss newcomers Bölzer have released one of the most standout albums of any band. A truly unique take on blistering blackened death that uses imaginative guitar work, filled with hook-laden riffs, Aura is twenty-three minutes of completely addictive music that every metal fan should add to their collection.
Bones – Sons of Sleaze
Two years after releasing their awesome self-titled debut, crusty death metallers Bones are back with their sophomore effort, and does it ever go. As with their first album, things like technicality are pretty much non-existent… The guys in Bones are only interested in burning your face off with hi-octane metal. Sons of Sleaze isn’t going to surprise anyone, but music this good doesn’t need to.
Cultes Des Ghoules – Henbane
This is the second full-length album by Polish black metal band Cultes Des Ghoules and it surpasses Häxan in every way. Henbane is an auditory experience filled with insidous atmosphere, oppressive droning, and hypnotically primal black metal. There are plenty of releases that deserve to be on a year-end list, but this album is a bona fide classic.
Crypt Lurker – Baneful Magic, Death Worship and Necromancy Rites Archaic (EP)
Hailing out of Liverpool, England like a slowly rising corpse, this debut EP is a rolling monolith of raw blackened doom. Punctuated by a thick atmosphere and mesmerizing riffs, Crypt Lurker are quickly making a name for themselves in the metal underground with this release.
Mael Mordha – Damned When Dead
As a band, Mael Mordha have been around for nearly 14 years and in that time they’ve managed to wrack up a respectable discography. Despite all their talent though, they tend to be a relatively overlooked band… especially when compared to fellow countrymen Primordial. With the release of their fourth full-length, it’s time for people to take notice of this Gaelic doom band. Filled with mournful passages and melodic riffs, Damned When Dead will take you on a melancholy-filled trip through the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Irkallian Oracle – Grave Ekstasis
Don’t let the fact that this band is from Gothenburg, Sweden fool you about the music… The fact that it was mastered by Vassafor vocalist Phil “VK” Kusabs should tell you this is anything but the typical style of metal we’ve come to associate with that area of the world. Grave Ekstasis is 45 minutes of dragging blackened death that blends slow, grinding riffs with occasional moments of frenetic energy. The top-notch production only adds to experience… thick and natural sounding, without become a massive wall of thunder. This is an impressive debut and I look forward to seeing more from them.
Zügellos – Goathymns
I don’t remember exactly how I discovered Zügellos, but I’m glad I did. A one-man band out of Wikon, Switzerland, sole member Mischa Horn has thankfully foregone the typically monotonous style of DSBM that so many solo bands play, and instead has given us a ripping mix of crust punk and Darkthrone-inspired black metal. Horn has a true knack for writing music, excelling at multiple tempos while balancing both of his influences perfectly. This is a good solid piece of music, and as it’s free on Bandcamp, everyone should at least give it a try… you’ve got nothing to lose.
Iron Dogs – Free and Wild
Iron Bonehead had already released a number of fantastic albums this year, so I was actually surprised to see this one slip onto the release schedule at the very last minute. For those of you who don’t know, Iron Dogs is a Canadian band that’s firmly entrenched in the early 80’s metal scene. A mixture of the NWoBHM and speed metal, the band’s influences are all over this album… everything from Angel Witch to Motorhead can be heard in the melodic harmonies and throwback writing style. Fans of this style will find an album more than worthy of their time.
Lantern – Below
Not to sound like too much of a hipster, but I have been into Lantern ever since the Subterranean Effulgence EP blew my face off in 2011. To say I’ve been really looking forward to this full-length would be a hell of an understatment. Now that it’s finally dropped, I think its safe to say that it completely lived up to my (and a lot of other people’s) expectations. The music has a gritty, raw production that only empahsizes the ominous beats and raging leads. With its cavernous sound and cold, all-consuming atmosphere, this debut album is not to be missed.
Condor – Condor
Technically speaking… Condor should probably be labled as a blackened thrash band. Truthfully though, their sound is pure 80’s thrash. Starting at a blistering pace, this album doesn’t let up until the final note, filled with awesome thrash riffs the whole way through. Condor are still a relatively young band, so there’s definitely room for growth, but I’d still say this is one of the best thrash albums I’ve heard this year.
Obliteration – Black Death Horizon
Sweden, and to a lesser extent Finland, have always been well known hot-spots for European death metal, but over the last few years Norway has begun to quietly establish a very solid scene all its own, with Kolbotn natives Obliteration leading the way. Black Death Horizon picks up right where Nekropsalm left off, blazing away with rotten, filthy grooves and rolling, doom-inspired passages. If killer, mid-tempo death metal with a late 80’s sensibilty appeals to you in any way, then don’t sleep on this one.
Ranger – Knights of Darkness (EP)
It may have only been a five-song EP, but Ranger made a huge impact this year with their brand of blistering 80’s speedmetal. Filled with shredding guitars and gritty, energetic screams, the music foregoes the idea of an epic sound, choosing instead to use a back-to-basics raw approach that makes Ranger stand out on the very first listen. Knights of Darkness doesn’t do elegant… it’s 20 minutes of simple, driving heavy metal.
Necromessiah – The Last Hope of Humanity…
The band describe their music as ‘Heavy-Powered Death & Roll’, but anyone who’s heard The Last Hope of Humanity knows this is religion-crushing blackened thrash of the very best kind. With a galloping tempo, intense rhythms, and tons of groove, this album is a perfect example of sonic aggression.
Sacriphyx – The Western Front
Sacriphyx came together in 2007 and, until this year, their entire body of work has consisted of 7 songs, spread over a single demo and a couple of split albums, so this full-length is long overdue. Thematically, the band attempt to convey the feelings of fear and horror that face soldiers in times of war… particularly the men who fought in the trenches of WWI. Musically, they’re much harder to pin down. While initially they come across as a very thrashy death metal band, their catchy sense of melody has very strong ties to the Greek black metal sound. Sacriphyx definitely has an old-school feel to them, but the music itself is refreshing and unique.
Solothus – Summoned from the Void
Finland is synonymous in my mind with death/doom, so it’s not surprising to me that a band from the land of a thousand lakes was able to create an album of such slow-rolling destruction. Filled with crawling mounds of death metal anguish, plodding guitar melodies, and a dark, smothering atmosphere, Solothus are a promising young band who found the perfect blend of death and doom.
Thrall – Aokigahara Jukai
At the northwest base of Mt Fuji lies Aokigahara Jukai, a 14-mile forest that translates as The Sea of Trees. An eerily quiet forest, due to the density of the trees and the lack of wildlife, it has a long association with Japanese demons and is a popular area for people to commit suicide… perfect inspiration for a metal band like Thrall. Weaving blasting, black metal passages with slower rock and roll rhythms, this band from Tasmania have created an album of hateful and vicious music with an undercurrent of morbid beauty.
Temple Nightside – Condemnation
Another late-season release, this year sees the first full=length from Australian war-metal machine Temple Nightside. With the band comprising just two members, Basilysk and IV, both of whom just happen to be members of the equally fantastic Nazxul, there was little chance this album would disappoint. This album is all about atmosphere. Working with an incrediably raw production, the music creates an oppressive wall of sound that completely suffocates the listener. This album is a ferocious bit of nastiness, and only the bravest should check it out.
Tyrant Goatgaldrakona – Horns in the Dark
Altar of skulls – check… Ominous cloaked figures – check… Evil goatman with an unholy book – check and check. The cover of Horns in the Dark tells you exactly what to expect before the first note even plays. Savage and violent, this band worship strongly at the throne of the mighty Incantation. This is a no-frills death metal album. There are no sweeping solos or technical compositions, just simple, catchy death metal riffs. No one will call this a unique album, but with a run time of only 30 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome… packing a heavy punch into a compact frame.
Veneror – Percussimus Foedus cum Morte
Percussimus Foedus cum Morte, the debut full-length from Italian trio Veneror, won’t re-define black metal by any means, but it’s a strong first effort from these young muscians. There’s a clear Finnish influence in the music, particularly noticable in the up-tempo riffing and the heavy atmosphere that covers the whole album. Underneath that, though, there’s a strong sense of Swedish melody that flows through the music as well. Veneror isnt a unique band, but it does it influences proud.
ZOM – Multiversal Holocaust (EP)
Zom’s musical attack is not new, but the subtle additons they bring to their blackened death influences make it brutally enjoyable. True to the style, there’s no real sense of intricacy in the music, but this two-song EP is a veratible tornando of riffs, thundering along between monstrous thrash and raw crushing doom. Multiversal Holocaust is primative-sounding, and requires a few listens, but there’s some great music to be found underneath.
Decaying – The Last Days of War
Grave Miasma – Odori Sepulcrorum
Grave Upheaval – Untitled
Grond – Howling From the Deep
Ogdru Jahad – I
Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer
Slidhr – Deluge
Witchgrave – Witchgrave
War Master – Blood Dawn (EP)
Maniac – Black Legion (EP)
Including the honorable mentions, I’ve only listened to one of these (Grave Miasma) and have only heard of a handful of the rest. Very curmudgeony!
Likewise (+ Cultes Des Ghoules and Lantern). Curmudgeonly indeed, I am looking forward to digging through it.
If you enjoy Grave Miasma then Id definitely recommend the Tyrant Goatgaldrakona album
I thought Odori Sepulcrorum was frickin’ great to be honest. I’ll check out this other one!
Too surgical a list. Great.. I need to be picking up Necromessiah which seems available at a Distro here. Good stuff. Thrall sounds great and so does the story behind its name. Checking out the rest now.
That Sea of Trees is creepy as hell…there are so many suicides there that theyve apparently put up signs trying to dissuade peole from doing it…not that it appears to be helping
I’ve heard most of this and agree with most of it so I’ll be checking out the stuff I’m not familiar with for sure.
Well at least I surprised you on a couple 🙂
How can something signed on Candlelight go under everybody’s radar? Mael Mordha is a great find (for myself as well). Iron Dogs was fun and so was the video (reminded me “Call of the Wintermoon” for some reason, albeit in a good way). Lantern was a tad underwhelming as i had to skip to “Entrenching Presences and Manifesting Shambolic Aura” when listening to that album. The rest of the album wore out of me, I liked the new Krypts over this.
Mael Mordha constantly flies under the radar for some reason, but they are well worth the effort to track down…Id highly recommend getting a hold of their 2007 release “Gealtacht Mael Mórdha” as well..absolutely fantastic release
..and the “Call of the Wintermoon” video immediately popped into my head as well when I first saw that Iron Dogs video
Get out of my fucking head Surgical Brute.
It did occur to me that the two of you may have been separated at birth.
Tr00Nate..my brother from another mother
awesome list! some of my favorites mentioned are Bones, Crypt Lurker, Irkallian Oracle, Obliteration, Necromessiah, Sacriphyx, Solothus, Tyrant Goatgaldrakona and Zom!
Check out the stuff in the “runner up” section as well…I think you’ll find a lot to like there..Decaying, Grond, War Master and Ogdru Jahad will most likely appeal to you
Yes! Irkallian Oracle! That album knocked my dick in the dirt.
Agreed..total beast of an album
Godammit, I meant to check out Cultes des Ghoules and Slidhr!
Give Veneror a spin as well, I think you’ll like that one
My taste must be becoming more trve, because I’ve got a bunch of these on my list, and a few more that I just haven’t gotten around to listening to. Who would have seen that coming?
I ahve no doubt that reading my lists over the last few years has improved your trvness factor 🙂
Hahaha… I’ll admit, I’ve gotten a few suggestions from your past lists, so you do get partial credit there.
Wow, Condor is awesome. I’m surprised not to see Beyond in here.
I ended up pulling a lot of albums I really liked off of this list just to keep things manageable…Beyond put out a hell of an album though..definitely would have been on my top 50
I think it was Islander who said a while ago that the most importen reason for these list was for others to discover music they might have missed out at. In that aspect this is a great list. The best yet, actually. I have Crypt Lurker, Irkallian Oracle, Solothus, Lantern & Thrall nothes for further investigation. Thanx aand cheers!
Thanks man!..Glad you liked it
Thanks for Crypt Lurker and Solothus – they’d both slipped under my radar this year but are excellent!